The race for the 1954 championship came down to the very last day of the season, with a near-perfect (nine wins, two draws) record at Turner’s Cross propelling Evergreen United to within touching distance of their first league title. Having defeated Drumcondra the previous week to end that club’s title aspirations, the Corkmen now looked forward to a last day showdown with Shamrock Rovers, with the two sides level on 28 points after 21 matches. A solitary Liam Tuohy strike at Glenmalure Park was enough to secure the Hoops’ seventh League of Ireland championship title, their first for 15 years.
In the F.A.I. Cup, St. Patrick’s Athletic reached the decider for the first time, and with the squad having placed a bet on themselves to win the trophy much earlier in the season, each man was set to pocket a considerable sum of money if they could get the better of Drumcondra (whose manager Billy Behan had played in two finals for Shamrock Rovers, and refereed the decider of 1943) in the Dalymount showdown. The omission of Pats’ star striker Shay Gibbons from the line-up (which did include a 19-year old Joe Haverty, who would soon join Arsenal) was even more bizarre given these circumstances, and a Dessie Byrne own-goal was enough to give Drumcondra a 1-0 win, and their fourth F.A.I Cup success. The defeat meant that St. Pat’s would not add to the Dublin City Cup that they had secured earlier in the season, after a 4-3 win over Shelbourne.
1953-54 saw Limerick F.C. capture the first national honour of their 16-year existence, and in extremely dramatic circumstances. Needing a win at Oriel Park in their last League of Ireland Shield (a competition that they had finished in the bottom two of for five of the last seven seasons) match to overtake leaders Shamrock Rovers, the Shannonsiders found themselves two goals in arrears early in the second half. The match was turned on its head between the 65th and 68th minutes, however, with the visitors scoring three times (Irish international Sean Cusack scored the first from the penalty spot) to fashion a famous 3-2 victory, and trigger wild celebrations in the Treaty city.
Drumcondra had actually gone on to secure second position in the shield, and days before their league defeat to Evergreen, they had played host to a slice of League of Ireland history at Tolka Park. Owner Sam Prole, who had taken over the club during the close season after 25 years as secretary of Dundalk (a hugely influential figure, Prole was often described as the “godfather” of Irish football, and later became President of the F.A.I.), fittingly welcomed his former club to the Richmond Road venue for the first ever League of Ireland match to take place under floodlights (he would later oversee the introduction of pitchside advertising at the ground, Drums being the first League of Ireland club to make such a move). Although a 4-0 victory for the home team would probably have pleased Prole, the fact that the result helped condemn the Lilywhites to finish in twelfth and last position (they took just one point from 11 away matches, and also lost their long-standing unbeaten F.A.I. Cup home record this season) for the first time in their history would not have been so agreeable. Prole’s shrewd financial management of the club over the previous years had been instrumental in ensuring that Dundalk not only competed for footballing honours, but that it had even survived. He had been commended for garnering very respectable transfer fees from English clubs for several Dundalk players in the late 1940s and early 1950s, monies which had, in essence, saved the Louth club from bankruptcy.
League of Ireland 1953-54
|St. Patrick’s Athletic||22||4||7||11||27||43||15|
League top scorers : Danny Jordan Bohemians, 14 Paddy Ambrose Shamrock Rovers, 13 Christy Bergin Waterford, 12 Eddie Doran Evergreen United, 12
Representative matches : League of Ireland 3-1 Welsh League, English League 9-1 League of Ireland, League of Ireland 1-3 Scottish League, Irish League 0-0 League of Ireland, League of Ireland 1-0 Hessen League (Germany)